A film review by Craig J. Koban August 27, 2013


2013, R, 113  mins.


Aaron Johnson as Dave Lizewski / Kick-Ass  /  Chloë Grace Moretz as Mindy McCready / Hit-Girl  /  Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Chris D'Amico / The Mother F--kerr  /  Clark Duke as Marty Eisenberg / Battle Guy  /  Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes  /  Donald Faison as Doctor Gravity  /  Lindy Booth as Night Bitch  /  Olga Kurkulina as Mother Russia  /  Andy Nyman as The Tumor

Written and directed by Jeff Wadlow  /  Based on the comic series by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

The original KICK-ASS from 2009 was a satirical juggernaut as a comic book super hero film, one that managed to both show reverence to and mock the established clichés and conventions of the genre.  Part of its great appeal – which was found in Mark Millar’s and John Romita Jr.’s original comic book source material – was that it tapped into every teen geeks’ fantasy about putting on a costume and dispatching evil doers.  Unfortunately for Dave Lizewski - the 17-year-old hero-wannabe from the first film - wanting to be a costume-clad pursuer of justice is far easier than actually being one.  The first KICK-ASS film was hilariously subversive in this regard as it explored a world where everyone’s favorite comic books existed and those that read them wanted to emulate their heroes, with varying degrees of success. 

Now comes KICK-ASS 2, which is a surprise of a sequel, seeing as the first film was just a modest box office success and did little in the way of huge business to even warrant a sequel.  Gone this time is the first film’s director, Matthew Vaughn (now serving as producer) and in is Jeff Wadlow, who also scripted the sequel.  To be fair, KICK- ASS 2 does what all sequels should do: It goes beyond the origin story of the first film and takes the established characters in new directions.  On those levels, this new film is successful.  It also still makes great usage of its game cast and relishes at having nihilistic fun at their expense.  Yet, KICK-ASS 2 seems a bit too scattershot for its own good this time as it wages more of a war within itself as to whether it wants to be a serious comic book action film or a cheeky lampooning of super hero motifs.  The first film balanced these two entities rather well, but now I gained the sense that the sequel sort of falls short in blending the original’s cutting edge ultra-violence and sly humor.  KICK-ASS 2, as a result, never quite finds a way to marry its divergent tones really well. 

Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, perhaps looking a bit too old now to play a plausible high school kid) returns as the titular hero, who in the last film donned a green and yellow masked jumpsuit to become a vigilante crime-fighter with hilariously inconsistent results.  Alas, he made up for his lack of super powers – and skills in general – with raw passion, will, desire, and an ability to take an unpardonable amount of physical punishment.  KICK-ASS 2 begins roughly a few years after the first film, which had a climax that, you may recall, had Kick-Ass kill turncoat hero Chris D’Amico’s (aka - Red Mist, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) vile gangster dad with a rocket launcher.  Now, it seems that Chris wants to seek vengeance against Kick-Ass by becoming a real-life super villain.  With his inheritance money, Chris launches a revenge plot and adopts a new outfit and moniker, the latter that should probably not be repeated here. 



Meanwhile, Dave still remains a geeky high school senior, but has now retired, so to speak, from crime fighting in an effort to become more normal.  His friend, Mindy McCready (aka Hit Girl, Chloe Grace Moretz) is now a more fully-grown teen that’s still battling with her father’s death from the first film.  She lives with her new guardian (Morris Chestnut) who desperately tries to steer Mindy in the right upbringing path, but Mindy still manages to sneak out of her home and wander the streets as Hit Girl to remove the scum of the earth off of the streets as her father trained her to do.  The problem for both Mindy and Dave while they struggle to live high school lives of bland ordinariness is that the allure of being masked vigilantes becomes too overpowering.  That, and social life at high school blows, as Mindy discovers in a very funny subplot as she tries to fit in with a group of pompous and elitist girls that end up treating Mindy rather poorly…all while not knowing that she could kill them at any given moment. 

Eventually, Dave becomes so disenchanted and bored that he finds himself adopting his Kick-Ass mantle again, but this time he and Hit Girl have some company in the form of other costumed heroes, and the film has great fun in coming up with them.  There’s Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison), Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) and, yes, Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), a former mob enforcer now born-again Christian crime fighter that has a dog named Eisenhower that has a nasty penchant for biting a villain’s junk on command.  For awhile, everything seems to be going smoothly for this new super hero team, but then Chris’ egomaniacal and cold hearted baddie shows up with his own squad of murderous thugs (including Mother Russia, a hulking woman that’s seemingly impervious to pain) that targets them all for eradication. 

As with the previous film, I found myself positively gravitating to the well assembled cast here: Johnson may no longer look the part of a gangly and nerdy 17-year-old, but he still brings infectious levels of naiveté and enthusiasm in his performance.  Moretz is no longer an f-bomb uttering little girl assassin from the original (which all but curtails her role’s shocking edge this go-around), but she nonetheless still remains an ultra-cool focal point of interest in KICK-ASS 2.  The borderline unrecognizable Jim Carrey – who very publicly disowned the film before its release due to its violence – manages to bring new levels of devious and totally deranged unpredictability to the film as his bat swinging anti-hero.  Granted, since he participated in no advance publicity for the film, it feels that his role, as a result, has definitely been shortened in the cutting room, which is a bit of a shame, seeing as he helps breath new life into the sequel when it desperately needs it. 

Where KICK-ASS 2 falters, though, is that, as stated, it’s too meandering, unfocused, and has a made-it-up-as-they-went vibe throughout.  Oftentimes, there are far too many new characters all trying to get attention in the story when the film really should have focused on the primary personas from the first film.  There’s also much less in the way of go-for-the-juggler satire now as this new film becomes a bit too engrossed in action and mayhem.  The blood-curdling carnage of KICK-ASS still remains intact here, but there does not seem to be as much in the way of sly commentary about the bloodshed itself in KICK-ASS 2.  The prequel showed – in perverse levels of sadism – the plausible levels of body ravaging brutality that would be the product of an inexperienced and average person becoming a hero overnight.  In this film we seem to get more violence without any type of compelling slant to it.   

Still, I mostly had a good time with KICK-ASS 2, and it was momentarily exhilarating to see Kick-Ass and Hit Girl’s army of heroes duke it out versus Chris’ squad of evil doers in the film’s bizarre, yet action-soaked climax (complete with a shark in a large water tank in the villain’s lair, which you know will figure in at some point).  Alas, KICK-ASS 2 most certainly lacks the revitalizing freshness of the film that preceded it, not to mention that it’s not nearly as devilishly shrewd with its satirical crosshairs either.  This is a sequel that does conjure up fond memories of the first film and also manages to have some fun with placing the heroes out of their comfort zone (watching Mindy seek her own social revenge versus her viscous classmates that scorned her will have viewers both cheering and quickly looking away from the screen in disgust).  Yet, KICK-ASS 2 just lacks the confidence of vision, bold originality, and brazen throw-caution-to-the-wind intensity of number one.  It’s a serviceable and well-meaning sequel, but not much more.

  H O M E